tv Discussion on Textual Tradition and the Declaration of Independence CSPAN July 12, 2015 6:30am-7:53am EDT
declaration of independence. how the document was written, revised and edited, and how later generations interpreted the declaration. this is 2 hours and 45 minutes. good morpning, everybody. it's a pleasure to be here. thank you so much for joining us. i want to start by thanking our hosts, the archives. it's been extraordinary, the way they've jumped into supporting my effort to bring more attention to the question of how we read the declaration of independence and how we think about the diversity of the declarations textual tradition. we are punctuating happyinesshappiness. we're focused on the second sentence intently of the declaration of independence. i'm going to re-introduce the second sentence to you and invite my panelists to expand.
we'll each speak for 12 minutes, leaving time for questions from all of you. i understand we may also have some questions coming in over e-mail or twitter, possibly. i'm not sure exactly how that works. i imagine somebody will. that'll become magically clear at the relevant point. let me as i said, reintroduce all of you to the second sentence of the declaration of independence. we hold these truths to be self-evident self-evident, that all men are created equal. they are endowed by their creator with certain and unalienable rights. life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. governments are instituted among men. whenever any form of government becomes detruktive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. now, i expect that all of you
are not surprised by how long this sentence is. as i have gone around the country talking about the declaration over and over again, people have expressed surprise at just how long this sentence is. it's important to dwell on the length of it to recognize that there are two moments that happiness appears in the sentence. after pursuit of happiness, where we're talking about individual rights and then down at the end of the sentence, when we come to the people's responsibility for organizing government in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their shared or collective safety and happiness. so the sentence establishes an important balance between the individual and what's shared or united or collective for all of us. as we look at this sentence we realize there are these five clauses, all which start with that. self-evident truths, dependent on the opening clause. we hold these truths to be self-eve departmentself-
self-evident. the sentence is making an argument. we see a theory of revolution. we even see that there is a specific logical structure underneath the sentence. a structure that philosophers would identify as a syllogisms. i'll remind everybody what a syllogism is. the conventional example a syllogism has a conclusion. the conclusion follows from the premise. i like to use bill gates instead of socrates. it's a more immediate charge to think about bill gates in these charge. take as the first premise of the syllogism, bill gates is a human being. we know that by observation. it's a basic fact. second premise, all human beings are mortal. we also know that in a basic way. from those, we draw the conclusion that bill gates, too, is mortal despite our grand
perception of him. that's a syllogism. that's the underlying structure of the second sentence in the declaration. let's make that clear. the first three clauses taken together are the first premise, that all men are created equal. they've been endowed by their creator, alienable rights. life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. those belong together as a single premise. they lead us to the second premise. to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, driving their powers from the consent of the governed. then the big conclusion, the articulation of the theory of revolution, whenever governments don't do this basic job of securing the rights that were in the first premise the people need to change those governments so that they do do their job. now, a philosopher practicing philosopher with a phd would insist there is a missing premise in this syllogism. that all people have a right to whatever is necessary to secure
what they have a right to. once you do stick that missing premise in, it is a logically secure syllogism argument. syllogisms were things that those who went to school in the 18th century learned about consistently, in terms of how they learned to write. this is a page from a book by isaac watts. he wrote a lot of hymns. also the businessyinessy bee poem. he also wrote this handbook on logic t logic, the art of reasoning. by 1789 it went through 16 editions. the 16th edition is a philadelphia printing. you'll see from this page, as he begins to describe logic that a
syllogism is a joining of several propositions together. it produces an argument whereby we want to infer something less known from truths that are more evident. the idea of self-evidence itself is closely connected to the use of syllogisms for forming arguments and reasoning in 18th century argumentative practice, rhetorical practice. so why is it that when the -- the syllogism is as important as it is? it gives us this theory of revolution. we've lost sight of n entirety of the argument. we have multiple versions of the text starting from 1776. let me start with the latest end of our textual tradition. that's the archives.
we'll summarize the syllogism again, from the declaration. all people have rights to life liberty, pursuit of happiness. all people have a right to a properly constituted government. that's what it boils down to fundamentally. as i said, why is it that we lose track of that argument? if you go to the national archives website, which is first on google and pull up the transcription of the declaration, you get a text that has a period after happiness. there is good reason for this period. i'll come back to that. it has a big influence. i was at an exhibit at the american philosophical society. i was standing behind kids reading the declaration with the period in it. among these is the life, liberty, pure suitsuit of happiness. they didn't finish reading the sentence. we teach kids a period completes
a thought. when you get to the period, you stop and understand that complete thought. so the period affects our reading practice. from my point of view, it shortchanges people, in terms of giving them access to the whole argument i showed you. of course, it's not simply from google that this comes. it comes from a long tradition. this is the stove engraving. you realize it's got the same period after pursuit of happiness. right there. so that's from 1823. that text has been our basic text of the declaration since 1823. it was what we looked to, because it's legible. it has that great advantage of being beautiful and legible. what about the parchment itself? as you know this is its state. there is a mark after pursuit of happiness, but it's hard to tell, in fact. we hear more about this, whether it's a period or comma. does the parchment give us a single sentence or not?
hard to say. how would we answer this question? what would we do about this mystery? old humanities gave us the tools of theology. building a textual family tree, figuring out what you have on it. we have new humanities. the capacity to use instrumentation, like imaging which analyzes the ink on parchment or paper and figure out the layers and what might have been there. both are tools we can try to make sense of the mystery on the march parchments. we have seven manuscripts of the declaration. they all punctuate as a single sentence. congress's corrected minute book is a single sentence. jefferson was in charge of overseeing publications in 1776. dun dunlap's was a single sentence. the first with a period was july 6th 1776, in the pennsylvania
evening post. look how different this looks in his newspaper. when you get this printing on july 6th. you'll hear more about this printing. it circulated all over the colonies. right from the get-go, from july 6th onwards, we had both versions circulating in the colonies of the declaration. that which made the syllogism accessible and focused on the individual rights. to new humanities. we'll hear more about this on the fourth panel. this is an example we'll probably see again from worked on at the library of congress of jefferson's original first draft. beneath the word citizens jefferson originally had written subjects and changed it to citizens. this is the thing that new technologies help us do. where does that leave us? i'll conclude and hand it over to my colleagues. simply by saying, it leaves us with a diverse textual tradition. there isn't one text of the declaration.
we start with john dunlap, in terms of official printings. there are four official printings. the printing by congress which is a single sentence. then thomson's man youuscript and the record book one sentence. the parchment the mystery text. we can't tell. then we have the final printing commissioned by congress, and she puts a period after pursuit of happiness. the four early versions commissioned by congress, two punctuate as a single sentence, one is a mystery and one splits the sentence into two with a period. all right? so we have a diverse textual tradition. i'll hand it over at this point to mr. caller.
>> thank you. as a dealer in historic documents and a collection builder, i often start at the end. there is ink on a piece of paper or parchment that i have to look at and figure out, is it real? what does it mean? is it valuable historically or monetarily? here with any document, we have all of the knowledge and experience that led authors and/or scribes to put that ink on that medium. this particular document, the declaration, i have personal history with because i can say that i'm here and have gone into the history field because of a trip i took nearly 40 years ago to the national archives. looking at the declaration of
independence, i, a somewhat bored student in school, was inspired by american history and the power of that document. and i saw the engrossed declaration and felt a pride of ownership, that i hope every american, and even every human being, can feel by reading the text from that document. let's see if i can get to my powerpoint. may need a little help with that, just to find the right powerpoint. or i could give danielle's speech again. okay. i would add, the last screen
showed four official versions. great. so i'm going to talk about preserving the image and proclaiming the news of independence. so start inging more with the present but then going back. and this is what we have today at the end. the declaration engrossed manuscript manuscript, that people still think of as the original declaration of independence, but it wasn't something that existed on july 4th or july 2nd when america declared its independence. this is what we see today, and
this is the stone facsimile a copper plate engraving by stone. john quincy adams ordered it to be done in 1820. he noticed that from handling, from people walking into the secretary of state's office and saying, i'd like to see the declaration of independence it was already deteriorating. also, there had been a couple of not facsimiles but decorative prints done in 1818, 1819 1820 to showcase the declaration of independence. this is just a couple of years after the war of 1812 where america's independence was convinced. actually, i'm going to go back and just point to a couple of things on this. besides mostly scholars in the audience, i know there are people watching online. their first thought is probably i have a declaration of independence. is it real?
didn't mean that. okay. the first thing to look at to see whether you're looking at a stone declaration first edition is this little imprint up here and up there. a second edition would have one, a smaller w.j. stone right down there. this is a decorative print of the declaration, that is still valuable because there were other 200 copies ordered. stone printed the 201st which he kept. there was scandal when people realized that, though it was the common practice. his family donated that copy to the smithsonian. danielle asked me to consider the declaration engross manuscript and the stone, and talk about the process of the creation. because there is this story that stone took the original
manuscript, which he had for about three years and used a chemical process to lift ink off of the original. as the basis for his plate, from which he engraved the copper plate, from which the declarations were then struck. and if that were the case, it would tell us certain things about the exactness of the manuscript and the stone plate which then we would know would be more original, in a way. because you can't see the engross manuscript now but if you're looking at an exact chemical-made copy that lifted ink from the original then it really does connect very deeply. what i found is that it's a very difficult question to answer. i'll show you why. we have -- this is from the engrossed manuscript. that's from the copperplate that's on display here now. this is from a paper printing of
this stone which is firstith the first edition. this is from the official stone, and in the the second edition. we've tried to prepare different points in each of those to see if they tell us whether the chemical process was used and how exact the stone declaration is. we have found some interesting things like this little mark here a hickey, it's actually called. it exists on some of the stone declarations but not on all. we don't know if that was on the original and faithfully copied or if that was a ding of the plate and copied in every subsequent edition. so there are very few points where we actually have enough information to make any real conclusions. this is a blow-up of the initial "the" in the declaration.
we've helped it a little with contrasts here. i will compare it to the stone declaration, which is obviously much more visible. if you look at the two together we find some interesting points. number one, this does not exist, as far as we can tell, on the manuscript manuscript. as far as we can tell, it never did. that would be just a printer's or engraver's tip, that stone may have added. a facsimile by definition is an exact copy. engravers wouldn't make an exact copy without a markengraving of it. there is also this clean line in the stone, and this almost heart-shaped line in the original manuscript. what does that tell us?
it tells us basically that stone may not have used a chemical process. he was one of the finest engravers of his day. he actually was hired by john quincy adams to produce beautifully engraved ships passports, maps and other things that the government needed. and he had the original for up to three years. so a master engraver could actually create such a plate by hand using maybe a tracing, but without needing a chemical process. so my summary of that point is that i would not assume that he used the chemical process. the first notice that i've heard that stated that he did as a fact was 1904. i think this that was an assumption because i don't believe there's any evidence that was used to base that, expect the look.
oh, this document is so deteriorated, and we know, especially by 1904, there are these processes that can be used to lift ink off the original to make the plate. therefore, that's what stone did. i'm showing this french printing, after all, they helped make the declaration of independence come true, by helping us achieve our freedom. this is a french printing from 1804. if you look at it, it looks a lot like the stone engraving. if you look a little more closely though, the top of that french engraving looks very much like the stone. but as you get further along in it the engraver was running out of time. he's doing this for a book that has to be published. he starts doing it very quickly. now, you'll notice that he even forgets to cross a lot of t's and dot a lot of i's.
the reason it's important here, i think, is because if i didn't point that out, and you were looking at the french printing of the declaration, or the stone declaration, you might assume that they were both created in the same process. you might have assumed, also, that this was based on either a stone for the next generation printing. when, in fact, this couldn't have been done by the chemical process because, if it had been all of the t's would have been crossed and the i's would have been dotted and it would have been a more exact copy. so this isn't proof that stone did his engraving by hand, but it's certainly an indication that he could have. since i don't really have an answer to the question i was asked her for, ie for, i figured i'd bring in a couple more questions because we have a distinguished
room. 52 are known. this is one of three that have a presentation on the bottom. presented by the honorable john quincy adams secretary of state, to thomas emery president of the executive council of maryland. kperist ist interestingly, two of the three transcribed are not on congress's official list of people who should get copies of the stone declaration. they're both in maryland. could the honorable john quincy adams have been giving them out for political purchases? maryland was one of the states whose vote for the presidency, when he was running against john quincy adams wasn't known. maryland bucked the trend in support of adams. it is an interesting point that the two known legible are to maryland people who aren't on the official list.
but another thing that is worth pointing out is, of the 52 that are known, those do not include the copies that we know were given to thomas jefferson, john adams, james madison james monroe. so if you're digging in an institutional collection, be on the lookout. maybe you'll make that great discovery. here's another copy of the stone first edition. this is the third one i mentioned being inscribed. but we can't read the inscription that's down there. so i'm hoping later on when we talk about multi-spectral images, this is the kind of project that might be looked at also. this is presented by the honorable john quincy adams which we've looked at it understand the lights and technology infarared or ultraviolet we have. i know it's written by john quincy adams, unlike the other
two. we cannot tell who it was inscribed to. that is a question i would love to get back to. and this is another ingrave ingengraveing by tyler from 1818. one reason i bring it up here, because it weighs on the question of stone. actually with this, benjamin tyler and this being not facsimile, but a decorative version of the declaration adams was pointing out the declaration was already significantly faded by the time he gave it to william stone. he blamed the creation of this engraving for a lot of the deterioration. it did, in fact affect the ink, because he used it to create the ink. we don't know a chemical process or from the display. i'm going to go back very quickly, because there are more
questions that we can see looking at other documents. this is the dunlap printing of the declaration. july 4th to 5th, the first printing. this is the pennsylvania evening post. the first newspaper printing on july 6th. we've noticed many differences, and they'll talk about that on a later panel in the punctuation of them. particularly, the capital letters that are within sentences. so not at the beginning of a sentence, where they belong but used for style. i won't do into depth about this but this is a jefferson handwritten draft and an adams handwritten draft. one of the things we found by looking at the original printings of the declaration is that, we think at least, is john adams, not jefferson, was the one who went to dunlap with a manuscript on july 4th and we
think jefferson went to town on july 6th with his draft. here, you have a broadside printing. it's a single printed page with information only on one side. this is the press release of its day. it was meant to share news. it was meant to proclaim to get the word out. each of these broadsides are different. that is from salem. this is actually by the same printer in the "american gazette" newspaper. he made a couple of adjustments and kept most of the typesetting in tact. this is the salem declaration. this printer actually had a different broadside. we saw in the four columns, which is based on the town, on the "pennsylvania evening post" newsprinting. then he got the dunlap sent by congress, and he redid it to follow that style, in creating
the official printing inging in massachusetts. here's another newspaper printing, july 17th, which we acquired last week. why july 17th? we think about news being instantaneous. actually, it took a great deal of time for news to get from philadelphia to boston to the capital of massachusetts, which was actually in flux. later in the war the capital of continental congress actually had to move. each of these printings tell us something about the creation of the declaration, and they all have little interesting things like this. thom thomson, being spelled wrong or differently. among other spellings that were not as regularized as today are names even. the last image i'm going to show is one of the official printings. this is from the journals of congress, for 1776.
it was actually -- started to be printed in 1777 and then with the arrival of the british troops, congress had to high tail it out of philadelphia. this printing wasn't done. actually pages 1 through 424 were by aiken, and went with them. then congress, when they settled in yorktown, pennsylvania, ordered john dunlap the first printer of the declaration, to finish the job. he had managed to get his press out of philadelphia, while aiken managed to get the first 424 pages that were printed out but not his press. one other just interesting thing is that this includes the names of the signers of the declaration of independence. but none of the 1776 printings do that because those names were not released. even now a great student of
history might even know the names of all the signers. if they read this journal of congress, they're going to find one missing. john mckeon, who didn't sign until 1781. some of the other signers whose names are on it now were there but not august 2nd. so these original documents all can add more to the story. i personally would love to see the multi-spectral imamgges done on the declaration of independence. not because i think it'll answer the question about punctuation. the reason i'm showing so many of these documents is i don't think the answer is in one place. but i do think it should be looked at. because the declaration of independence maybe doesn't have a treasure map in it, but it really is a treasure map. i love the way that danielle is using it to teach not only american history and about our independence, but also to teach
creative and critical thinking. some of the thinking that was used by the founders of our great nation. so i'm going to stop, just by pointing out, a friend of mine is here, and he had a similar story to mine, with a granddaughter. when she was 11, taking her to the national archives. the granddaughter looked at it and told barry it's so faded. my grandmother has a better copy. and i'm going to end with a thought that that is true. because the best copy of the declaration of independence is the copy that any family has or any child has that they can read and study and look at on their own. knowing how it was written and
how to read it and how different people read it is all part of the great importance of this document. so there's a little more information from people -- for people who are looking for particulars on my website. there are printings and good images you can download for free and print out. there's a census of the known copies of the stone and examples of other printings of the declaration. and i thank you for having me here. [ applause ]
is my >> is my mic working? my role relates to mechanics, not to interpretation. all i'm going to do is talk about that engrossed parchment that we've been spending some time with here. what we do with what we're maybe seeing there, i'm going to leave to others, because there are many talented people that are going to be looking at that. much of what we know about the creation of the text, the declaration, was worked out by julien boyd, the founding editor of the papers of jefferson to mark the 200th anniversary of
jefferson's birth, and the volume one of the edition in 1950. boyd spoke and wrote about the topic at various other times, as well. boyd was an authority on jefferson's role in the writing of the declaration, but he helped show that the writing was a collaborative process. in a broad sense, boyd wrote and cataloged for the 1943 exhibit, author of the declaration of independence was the american people. now, boyd also was dealing largely with mechanics and the succession of texts and working out the manuscript sequence. so one thing that a lot of work has been done on since boyd, a lot of very good, interesting work on is the sources for that collaborative effort. what lay behind what ended up in
that text. we who work on the edition had no reason to revisit boyd's work. proesser professor allen was not asking us to. we're currently working intensely on 1804. professor allen, from her work knows more about the creation of the declaration of independence than those of us working on the edition now know. but professor allen was interested in something i could be of assistance with, which is taking a fresh look at the transcription of the parchment. i spent my career doing close work with a large number of manuscripts, 18th and 19th century america. this is what documentary editors do. i'm here as someone who has squinted at a lot of pangunctuation in handwritten documents. some of you may know the late john simon editor of the yougrant
papers. the editor's real task and dilemma, is it a comma or is it a period? so that's the essential dilemma. that's what we're dealing with today. brings us to the challenge of reading a signed parchment. you've seen it earlier this morning. you'll see it more during the day, i'm sure. what we see here and out in the roh rotunda, the declaration be fairly engrossed on parchment and signed by every member. that order confirms that this was meant to be an authoritative copy of the document. perhaps the authoritative copy.
although this may be hard to understand, looking at the document now, they used parchment to give it permanence. now, if you talk to someone who deals with medieval charters, documents that are on parchment, they have held up better than this has. which i think, perhaps, raises the question as to whether there was some flaw in the preparation of the parchment, because the ser surface had to be prepared a certain way, or something about the ink. maybe it was just malled by being viewed that much. but a large number of documents in europe that go back many centuries have held up better. preparation of parchment and doing things on parchment was not as much of a craft in the american colonies, of course as it would have been in the craft traditions in europe, from
earlier. now, fairly engrossed means -- that's a term that goes back quite a while -- that means writ in a large, clear hand. the term "engrossed" going back several centuries with reference of official copies of legal documents. fairly meaning in a fair hand. without flaw pretty, legible. in this case, the handwriting was that of timothy matlack. more about him later. and another thing that gives this text authority for us, and makes it important for us to try to get the best stranstranscript of it we can, is the fact they signed it. for us for americans the signing of the declaration is the great act where they pledged themselves to this declaration. so in many respects then, in
addition to the -- although there are other copies that one could consider to be -- other texts that one could consider to be official, such as the ones in the journals of congress, this one, for most americans is the authority version of the declaration. because it's in bad shape, reliance has been put on the avatar or what we might call the stunt double, in the form of the epigrave grave engraving. my ill grags -- illustrations are from the second editor of the engraving in 1833 i believe. he also assures me it's okay for what we're doing here today. it's very legible. very pretty. it'll give us good contrast here, of what we're doing. when you look at it, of course, it makes sense to try to use the
engraving as the stand-in for the manuscript, for the document on parchment. even julien boyd did that for volume one of the jefferson papers. but in his case, he was using this as the last text of the process. he was not as interested in it because, by that point jefferson's individual involvement had become more diffused. he just wanted to have a text of it. he did use the stone engraving. he did say that he was doing that. in the volume, it states very clearly that, yes it's the parchment, but the readings are from stone's engraving. he also didn't have the kind of high resolution photos that we have that we can digitally zoom in on and magnify and really see what's going on in the details. it would be possible to do a
transcription from the high resolution photographs in a way that wouldn't be possible earlier. but as we know for all of its evident faithfulness, the engraving is not an exact duplicate, in all regards. it's important to think of the stone engraving however it was created, as an act of interpretation. if i were slicker with my visuals, right now, the left image would dissolve into a photograph of a can of soup, and the right image would dissolve into andy warhol's painting of a can of soup. we have to think of this as a reputation meant to be realistic and show details but it is a representation of that parchment. now, this is not to reject the
notion that we need an avatar. my hope and expectation is that through sophisticated, further imaging, we're going to be able to get a digital engraving, if you will, of the engrossed parchment. it will give us a digital image that has better contrast and can really be read and can perhaps, for the 21st century replace the stone engraving. so that when those school kids buy their replicas of the declaration of independence, it can be based on our modern digital engraving rather than the engraving that was done in the 1820s. but for now, in order to address the question of punctuation we can use the high resolution photo and see what we can see.
let's look at some punctuation. i have not done anything with the contrast of the photo. all i've done is zoom in so you can see it. i wouldn't particularly know what i was doing, so we'll do it this way. so here's that really the key part of the declaration. as you've seen before, as professor allen showed you, right there is the piece of punctuation we're interested in. after pursuit of happiness. piece of punctuation, and then followed by a dash. the question is, is it a period, or is it a comma? so here is the representation in the engraving, showing it as a period and then a dash. so here it is, again, highlighting where it is in this
section. i want to call your attention to in this little cut this detail here there are two other places where there are dashes. this one is after the separation. that one is indisputabley a period. look what that looks like and compare it to happiness there. this one is after consent of the governed. that one is indisputably, rendered as a comma. the stone engraving and in other treatments of this text. so we have one that's a definite period. we have one that is a definite comma. pursuit of happiness is kind of in between. as professor allen has pointed out also, note that the dash after the period following
separation is a much longer, bolder dash. for whatever that might tell us. so here are some period/dash combinations from the endproszed ed -- engrossed parchment. you can get some idea of what are the criteria for a period. they tend to be fairly heavy. they tend to be very round. there is a fair amount of ink on the page. so after separation, this is what we have. in other places in the declaration, taking the engrossed parchment on its own terms, looking just at the punctuation that we see there. now, let's look at some commas. they are harder to see, and that's why i have paired them with cuts from the engraving.
partly just as a map so you can find where the commas even are. as you see, they're much fainter. they tend to have a little bit of a slant to them. but they're not necessarily very long. from what you see on the parchment, they can be pretty stubby. but they don't have that sort of round, heavy look that you see with the definite periods. here in fact, if you look if you find down on the engraving and look up, after self-evident, and particularly after "all men are created equal," that's a common but if you didn't know otherwise, you might read that as a period. but there was no occasion for that to be misread, as it seems there is with the period. as we know.
so the gist of things seems to be looking at the parchment that periods tend not to be ambiguous. commas can be very ambiguous. does that mean that an ambiguous piece of punctuation is more likely a comma than a period? perhaps. now, the scribe of the parchment was timothy matlack who was a very colorful person. if you look at certain aspects of matlack you'd say there is no way this person could be the scribe of the declaration of independence. he was -- he attended cock fights. he got have a street fight with someone over politics. he seems like a very rough and ready person. however, as a young man, as a youth, really, he had been apprenticed in a commercial office and had done a lot of
scribal work and continued to do that throughout his life, when he was a military and political leader. he listed his profession in the 1790 consensus as a scrivener. this is his handwriting from an ordinary letter. this is from 1807. you see the pattern of the periods and the commas. the periods seem to be round and definite definite. we can -- we read the periods more quickly and more easier than we're seeing the commas. there's another example. as you can see the handwriting, the script is slightly different from the gross parchment. that's because skilled calligraphers, scribes, clerks, could have different hands they used for different occasions. he would have been using his special declaration of
independence engrossed parchment hand for that document. but as you can see, he has a very lovely script even when he's just writing. as in this case, about fruit trees and politics to thomas jefferson in 1807. so that brings us back here to look. we've taken this little walk through some of the punctuation. so what do we do with again, that piece of punctuation? of punctuation? i -- i tend to read that as a comma, not as a period. i think there's a very good chance it is in fact, a comma. now i can't account for why it shows up as a period in stone's engraving. i'm not sure what he saw. he may have had a printed version at hand to help him out with the fainter parts. but i think it's as likely a comma as a peeshd period.
but i have presented this to you to draw your own conclusions. if you look here i'll just finish with this since we're talking about punctuating happiness. the top is the happiness that we've been looking at. at the bottom is the second use of the word happiness. that is an undisputed period. that's happiness with a period. so the question remains, what is following happiness up there at the top? thank you.
well, one of the lessons i think we should certainly learn from danielle danielle's book and her essay and progress on the declaration is that we have to look very carefully indeed at every word in that document, and obviously not just at words, but at commas, periods and dashes as well. this morning i'm going to try to provide you with kind of general historical context, in which the founding fathers composed, revised and then had printed the founding documents and i'm going to talk not just about the declaration, but about the articles of confederation and the institution as well.
the constitution as well. and i'm going to make four claims. the first is that printing conventions in england in the middle decades of the the 18th century changed rather significantly. roughly between 1740 and 1780. these changes in the presentation of texts, the heavy capitalization of common nouns, the heavy use of italics in caps and small caps changes in these conventions. in fact, have produced the modern page in english. the page that we're familiar with every time we pick up a book or an essay. my third claim is that printers in the american colonies in boston, new york and philadelphia followed the changing practice of their colleagues in london. and finally i'm going to argue
that these changes in printing conventions had their impact. had an influence on the founding documents that we've been talking about. now, how did i get into this business of looking at changes in printing conventions in the first place? in 1974, i began work on a dissertation at princeton, which was a scholarly addition of the works of william collins an 18th century poet. what you're looking at is his first independently published poem, which was entitled persian eklogs, and you're looking at the first page. and you will see very clearly, i think, if you look at the text itself, and not just at the prologue to it persian is
italicized, maids capitalized, poets capitalized edcapitalized, and so forth. this is have traditional text in the context of the 1740s and it's what i call the old style in printing. 15 years later, in 1757 this poem was reissued as oriental ecklogs, and if you look again at the body of the text you'll see that persian is not any longer in italics, and that all of those common nouns are now in lower case. so this juxtaposition really shows, i think what happened within a fairly short period of time. on the leflt hand you've got the old style of printing that goes back several centuries in england, and on the right hand, you have what i call the new
style, the modern style, with which we're familiar today. so let's look at 1700. on the right to begin with. here is a book that's been printed in london and it's fairly handsomely printed by the standards of the day. it has two large text blocks, which makes it a little difficult to work through, but for the most part, i think it reads easily enough, but if you look carefully at the actual capitalization and italicize italicizization italicizization, you'll see this is very heavily produced indeed. very much in the old style. if you look at the left from the same year from the a book printed in paris you're going to see a text that is completely modern. and not just modern in terms of italics and capitalization, but also in the fact that the
printer here has taken the time to work with some printer's devices in two places on the same page. it's elegant. it makes more use of the wide space, and in fact it becomes a kind of template for what english and eventually american prinlting is going to look like. so that late in the 18th century we can look at a text act three, scene one. and if you didn't know what this was, it could be a text printed in london or new york in 1960 or 1970. think of the complete works of george bernard shaw. that edition looks almost entirely like this text from the late 18th century. so the abandonment of heavy capitalization. the rational use of italics and
caps and small caps are all part of this movement towards the modern page. and when in 1785 john bell discards the long "s" in his edition of shakespeare, we essentially have the page with which we're familiar today. now over the last many years i've looked at over 2,000 books published in london between 1740 and 1780. this is my summery. it's in percentages. take a look at the year 1740 to begin with. in the old style 91% of the books, and we're talking over 150 copies for this one year. new style. and a mixture of the two in which the text doesn't seem to know in which direction it's going, absolutely nothing. but if you move just five years later, you can see there is a shift. fewer books are being
publishededpublished ed in the old style. you're getting fewer in the new style, but you're beginning to get this mixture as well. and if you move down to 1765, which i've placed in bold, for the first time you're getting a majority of texts printed in the new style. so it's only 34% in the old. it's 42% in the new. and quite significantly, 24% now are in this mixed style. and then there's extreme acceleration. if you compare 1740 with 1780 91% and 7% in 1780, you have complete reversal in the way text and english. in the bottom looking at 1700, not at 1740 or let alone 1765,
paris, madrid rome, look at thoesz percentages. they're almost all completely in what i call the new style. what happened here in the united states? in 1750 of the books i've taken a look at and again i have a large sample from the library of congress, 86% were printed in the old style. that's more than in london. it's a higher percentage. and fewer, 10% in the new style, and not many in what i call this mixed style. by 1765, however we're down to 31% against 34% in london. and 66% are in the new style against 42% in london. so the acceleration was even faster, even greater in the colonies than it was in london itself. so it's in this context in which
we might take rather broader look at some of these founding documents. so i'm showing you jefferson's rough draft. i just want to remind you that not only did he abandon capitalization when it came to common nouns, but he also did so with a number of other important words, including king, creator, and nature's god. and beyond that, he decided not to capitalize the first letter of the first word in most of the sentences in this document. so what he actually shared with the other members of the committee and eventually with the continental congress as a whole was not just something that had been written in the new style, but it was radically modern. and there are different ways of thinking about that.
now we don't know, we're going to disagree i suppose, about which manuscript made it to john lun lap dunlap's printing house. but the point to be made is this. in addition to what we're looking at in terms of punctuation, this is ironically a document that is completely, almost completely printed in the old style. even by american standards this is a very old fashioned looking text in terms of its capitalization. there could be various reasons for this. it could be that someone such as john adams, who tended to write in the old style was superintending. it may well be that dunlap decided to put it in this style because he did, in fact publish in the old style in some cases. but it's confusing because john adams wrote his thoughts on
government, not many months earlier. we have three drafts of it. all written and composed in the old style. when john dunlap published it, just a few months before he published the broadside of the declaration, he put it entirely in the new style. and in fact just one day later in benjamin town's publication in the pennsylvania evening post, we find it completely in the new style as well. completely or almost completely modernized. now later in the same year, 1776, of course, the delegates were working on what became the articles of confederation. dunlap was one of the two printers. what's interesting is that the draft of the articles was in the hand of john dickinson, and it
was completely written in the old style. and in fact, when dunlap and claypool printed off the first version of the articles to share with the delegates so that they could look at it, that also was completely in the old style. but when a second draft was printed, it was completely changed to the new style. and the following year 1777 when it was officially published, we have a complete transformation in what you're seeing now is a document that is pretty much in the new style as well. in the constitution in 1887 again, dunlap and claypool are
working as congress' printers. what we have in the first version that they prined off is a document you're not seeing it right here, there's a document that was completely printed once again in the old style. the second draft which was printed just one month later reveals an entirely different presentation of the text in terms of these printing conventions. it was entirely in the new style, and of course the document we're familiar with today was printed essentially in the new style as well. and that brings us to what we see on the website for the national archives. and what i would suggest given the kind of historical work that i've been pursuing is that we not only look very carefully at that period, and wonder whether
it should, in in fact, for many reasons be a comma but we also think about the style in which we want to disseminate this document to the largest possible audience. one of the arguments i make in the book that i'm writing is when it comes to 18th century texts, including poems such as william cullen's, is for students in particular, but certainly for a broader audience there's no reason not to modernize it to put it in the new air archives. it will be in a sense a little easier for a number of people to follow. thank you. what a fascinating way to start our day.
we do have time for questions. microphones are on the other side of the audience. if you have a question please approach the mike and we can field your question and respond. i don't have anything coming in from online at the moment, but we'll keep an eye out on that conversation string. we have a question coming in. hi this was fascinating. my question is about timothy. i'm studying a group he was in called the free quakers. coming from a strange direction because, yes, he was involved in horse racing ande inging and cock fighting and all this but he also founded a religious society, a very strange man. my question is where the attribution actually comes from,
and the closest i've been able to find is an article -- and this was partly with the help of reference librarians here, an article by a man named gaylord hunt, a manuscript writer, published in a youth's congressmancompanion article, which you know is for children, 1916, where he says that, and i believe the declaration was at the library of congress at the time. so he and some otherses gathered together several documents that some known to be attributed to matlag, such as george washington's commission for the continental army and compared the handwriting. and this got published in the companion, and that's literally the only thing i've ever found in writing as a primary source for the attribution. i was wondering if anyone had any other thoughts. and we know matlag worked as a
clerk for charles thompson, so that's the other link that people make. but i would love to hear more about this. even this question of commas hinges on his identity as well as national treasure or whatever. thanks. >> i would like to know more about that also. i was not able to find anything that seemed to be a direct tie, seems circumstantial, the fact that he was working inging as a clerk with thompson. matlag did an awful lot as a secretary or clerk. a little while after he becomes the secretary of the pennsylvania assembly. and one of the documents i showed you from 1779 if you look at the papers of the continental congress or anything in the pennsylvania records you see his handwriting everywhere. all kinds of copies of documents, as well as correspondence. some has his name on it.
some of which doesn't. but i was fris traited by this also. because as a historian, what i like to be able to find is something that directly showed it was indeed matlag rather than relying on the handwriting and the fact that he was working with thompson. >> i mean, i found basically similar material to you. i'll have to check my memory. my memory is 1904, there's a library of congress publication. but it's similar to what you're describing and purely circumstantial based on handwriting and so forth. >> i would add though, that the handwriting is a pretty good circumstance, and with the national archives and the library of congress and other institutions putting a lot of new materials online, i think it would be just as well to find more matlag documents and do the actual comparison than to go back and try to figure out who thought of it first.
i haven't personally done that comparison, but i think that it is probably provable that it is his handwriting. >> that was my sense too. i went back and looked at the -- just as many as you did, many man you scripts. i agree. i think it looks like a strong case. it would be nice to focus on it more fully. >> and i'm not a professional in the field. this question may be a little off topic. if so, it's okay. you can pass. but i noticed in both jefferson's draft and dunlap, the word united, as in united states of america, was all capitalized in the same size. but when you get to the the engrossed copy or the stone, united is in small. i wonder if you can comment on it. it. >> i really don't have an answer to that question. it's a good one. i think we're going to have to
think about it a little bit. it could in fact, reflect this very -- this atmosphere in which so many books were being published and so many documents were being written. it was very volatile at the time. but i don't know exactly why those would have -- that word in particular would have been put into lower case. i think it's a bit odd. i would have to think about it. >> i would just add to that i suppose with regard to jefferson's rough draft in particular. that against the background of his radical modernism and his punctuation that he's being emphatic about the word united, as he is also when he writes man in all caps, referring to slaves. >> that's right. >> in a section that's cut out by continental congress.
that men is emphatic and i would think that united is as well. >> good morning. i absolute agree this is a fascinating conversation, and discovery with the declaration. i wonder if any or all of you can comment on the fact that punctuation, which follows a punctuation mark, whether a word is capitalized or not has any impact on the interpretation being a period or a comma. what we know about matlag and his use of capitalization or not capitalization. >> so i'm happy to speak a little bit to it. >> i would say there's a great deal of inconsistency during the
period. and commas semicolons, colons and periods were interchangeable in a number of contexts. the only punctuation mark i know introduced into a sentence, not to end it but to make a point was the exclamation point. still in the 18th century, printers following their authors could put an exclamation point after a particular word. and that did not mean that the sentence actually ended right there. it was, i suppose, in some ways equivalent to putting it in capitals or italics a little bit earlier on. we haven't talked about the marks, though. >> or dashes. >> perhaps i can say something about dashes and you can say something about diacritical marks. >> yes. >> i think in the story of volatility and change that you heard, partly what you're
hearing is a story about people trying to figure out how to help people think about what were actually radical ideas and hard ideas. right? the movement from all men are created equal through the idea that governments are instituted to secure a right through that people had the right to alter or abolish them. that's a big, meaty, chunk of political philosophy there. and it's a very long sentence. so i take towns' newspaper putting a period in partly as a matter of breaking up the sentence, making it easier for people. but the other thing people were doing was using dashes to try to help people through that sentence, right? but the sentence carries on. and there's certainly an emphasis put on pursuit of happiness but matlag does something i think to be genius. to his qualities. he introduces a second dash
after this driving legitimacy from the consent of the government. there's another dash there. which means you have a dash after the first premise and a dash after the second premise. that brings out the argumentative structure in a way that goes after what the commas or semicolons are doing. to some extent i think you know that dash structure which is more like a semicolon really, comma dash combination is what's connectioned connected. think of it as bullet points. sort of an 18th century version of bullet points. >> i was thinking in your first presentation, where you show examples of where it's interpreted as a comma and a dash and then a period and a dash. by the 1820s if it evolved to there's a capital letter and
there is with the word that by then it was oh, it must be a period because there's a capital here. that's kind of where i was going with my question, too. maybe by 1820 that printer brought an interpretation modern than intended at the time. >> slightly more complicated. if you don't mind. that whenever a form of government is destructive it's a comma before the dash that proceeds a capital "t" there. so he was capable of using the comma dash capital construction there. >> so he could go both ways. >> he could go both ways. . . richard? >>. >> well, there are diacritical marks in his manuscript.
there are different ways of interpreting the marks. they look a little bit like quotation marks. in fact, dunlap put quotation marks in the first trial in the first part of the declaration and then discovered something was amiss. and they may have been confusing to everyone at the time. >> exactly. it turned into a dash or started to generation confusion around that part of the text. >> it seems that confusion continues today. we have time for one last question? >> hi. since richard ended with this slide of the transcription as it appears on the website, i would wondering if the speakers could
talk more about this being part of the textural tradition now, and where, how the discussion about where you wanted to go next with the transcription. you made a couple of suggestions, and this may come up in the teaching session, but how do we make it a dynamic text that celebrates the tradition and gives people choices? not just a modernized version. but something that allows you to see the different versions viewed by readers, and in those series of historical moments but also gives people the option of a clean reading text for a 21st century audience? >> well, i would like to introduce emily sitting in the third row and working on exactly that question. we hope to have some suggestions in that dynamic direction in the the next you know, 12 to 18 months. others may have more specific. >> well, anywhere else, i think
i would offer to supply images of all the printings of declaration of independence. here that's close to new castle. i think they really can put the transcript now with the images so that people can see them for themselves all of the different versions one may have looked at. and also it's not this manuscript, the engrossed copy, that people would have seen but it's one version or another of one of those printings, and so that's more authentic to feel what a person back then who is reading the message and having their lived changed by it might have seen.
>> i would support that. since we began the conversations about what's available via the archives website the notion of increasing access, which is a fundamental part of the archives mission is something we're looking at rather deeply to broaden that access. we at the archives like to think that we provide an open and honest brokerage, if you will, for access to that information and let others interpret what they see because even today in our discussion, is it a comma? is it a period? well, it depends on the eye and it depends on the time. and even depends on the intent, and t difficult for us to go back and truly be tracking intent. our intent is to broaden access. and that's one of the reasons this conference is happening today. which i think brings us to an excellent stopping point for our break. thank you to our panelists.